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Thursday, 20 September 2012
Page: 11481

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (09:33): Thankyou. I rise today to express how proud I was to attend the official opening of the new St Mina and St Marina Coptic Orthodox Church in Hallam last Saturday with my federal parliamentary colleague Alan Tudge, member for Aston, and other state colleagues, including the member for Narre Warren North, Luke Donnellan. In particular, I would like to congratulate His Grace Bishop Suriel, the Bishop of Melbourne, Canberra, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand, and the current clergy serving at this parish, including, in particular, Father Abanoub Attalla.

This church is a landmark building in every sense of the word. I am certainly proud to say that this church will be utilised by over 700 Coptic families. It is great to see a thriving Coptic community in the local area that I represent.

This church has a unique history, initially being on a property containing nothing other than a small cattle shed in Hallam in 1993. This church, as with the Coptic community, has blossomed and grown. I am now proud to say that the St Mina and St Marina Coptic Orthodox Church in Hallam has a new church, a spectacular church, that the entire community can enjoy.

I was raised, and still am, a Catholic. Certainly, in my view, there are certain benchmarks of what I perceive to be a great church. For example, a great church should be able to inspire the community—sometimes with its beauty and its location, but it should also be a focal point, a centre. A great church is a refuge and a sanctuary; a place of solitude when you need it. A great church allows you to hear the voice of God, but also to be heard by God. A great church offers you faith, hope and renewal. A great church has strong companionate leaders who reach out to the community. A great church reaches out to all people, regardless of faith and ideals. In a sense it becomes a community hub—sometimes a spiritual community hub. On all those benchmark criteria I have to say that St Mina and St Marina is a great church. It is a church that you can see at night, driving home on the Princes Highway, a church that you can see in Hallam when it is lit at night. It is a place, even by its very visage, that offers hope, comfort, solace and support. It says a lot about the people who literally built this church with their own hands: members of the Coptic community.

As I said, the Coptic community is a great community and we have a mayor—Mayor Sam Aziz—who is a member of that community. The Coptic community is contributing to our community and to our area. If you ever wanted a symbol of the contribution that this community has made in my area, that church is it.

It was at an honour to be there to share a very special moment, particularly with His Grace Bishop Suriel. I congratulate the Coptic community on that church and on the contribution they make to our community in making our community and our country a stronger place.